A mitre saw is a must-have for all do-it-yourselfers, from beginners to professionals.
This versatile and powerful tool, can, depending on the model, cut through studs, cut mouldings at various angles and create bevelled edges.
Since it is portable, its use is not limited to the workshop. It’s useful for jobs around the house or on a building site.
What will be its main function: cutting corners in baseboards and chair rails? Corners and bevel cuts for Ogee mouldings? Cutting large boards? All of the above?
What level of precision is required? Minimum, for jobs where the accuracy of the angle is less important, or high, for finishing and carpentry work?
A mitre saw is essentially a circular saw with a round blade lowered vertically onto a cutting table to cut pieces of wood along straight lines or at various angles.
There are three models of mitre saws available; the number of functions increase in the order listed:
Whatever the model, quality directly influences the accuracy of adjustments and the precision of cutting angles.
An entry level saw will be accurate to within a few degrees, and although this may be adequate for framework construction, it is not suited to furniture making, where pin point accuracy is extremely important.
The key components of a sliding compound mitre saw
Note: Certain features may not be available on all models.
1- Motor (not shown on the picture)
Mitre saw motors deliver between 13 A and 15 A of power; the higher the amperage, the more powerful the machine.
There are two types of configuration possible: the blade connected to the motor by means of a belt, and the blade connected directly to the motor.
A high-end direct-drive saw has the same qualities as a belt-driven saw: both are precise, comfortable, and do not produce too much vibration. The direct-drive motor has more power, which may explain why belt-driven saws are starting to disappear.
The motor brushes need to be replaced much more frequently on low-end machines than on their high-end counterparts. The belts on belt-driven machines also need to be replaced regularly.
2- Handle and Trigger
The shape and configuration of the handle and trigger is based on ergonomic principles in the interest of safe and efficient use. It is still a matter of personal reference, though, so it’s important you try out the handle before you buy your saw. The handle may be vertically or horizontally mounted or even adjustable on some models.
The trigger switch is set within the handle, either in the index finger-position or whole hand-position. Certain models are ambidextrous.
3- Blade Guard
Designed to ensure a good view of the cutting line, the blade guard retracts when the blade is lowered. Made of transparent plastic, the blade is always visible even when covered with the guard, enhancing security.
Blade diameter varies between 8 ¼" and 12", with 10" being standard. A non-sliding saw cuts 4" x 4" posts and 2" x 6" pieces. Note that a mitre saw will accept blades of only one size, and blades are replaced using a key or screwdriver.
Choose the blade type according to the type of stock to be cut or the delicacy of the desired cut. Depending on the blade, a mitre saw can cut wood, leather, ABS pipes, and aluminum, and make rough or fine cuts. Mitre saw blades should have a negative or zero tooth angle.
5- Laser Guide
The laser guide paints a beam of red light where the saw will cut the wood, which helps to ensure the blade is lined up correctly with your intended cut line. It can be very effective, although its use is limited to indoor work since sunlight will overwhelm the laser beam outside, making it practically invisible.
6- Table Extensions
Table extensions on either side of the machine help support longer pieces of wood. These are either included with the saw or offered as an accessory, depending on the model.
7- Mitre Lock Handle
The mitre lock handle securely locks the saw at the desired mitre angle.
8- Mitre Scale and Scale Indicator
The mitre scale indicator shows on a graduated scale the angle of the blade in relation to the featherboard. The blade may pivot 45° to the left or to the right, or up to 57° on high-end models. Look for an accurate and highly visible scale.
The featherboard is a device used to help control a piece of wood by supporting it securely against the table for longitudinal cuts. Some featherboards have an extension to provide additional, full-height support for larger stock.
10- Bevel Lock Lever (not shown on the picture)
The bevel lock lever securely locks the compound mitre saw at the desired bevel angles. Usually found on the rear of the saw, certain high-end models offer a system on the front of the machine, close to the mitre lock handle, making it easier to use.
11- Bevel Scale and Scale Indicator
The bevel scale indicator shows on a graduated scale the tilting angle of the blade in relation to the mitre table. The blade may tilt to a maximum of 45° to the left. A dual bevel system includes the ability to bevel right and left. Look for an accurate and high visibility scale. The stop used to adjust the saw for a 45° bevel cut may be adjusted.
12- Positive Stops
Positive stops make it quick and easy to adjust the mitre table for common cutting angles in construction and carpentry (i.e. 0°, 15°, 22.5°, 30°, and 45°). Shape varies according to the model.
13- Mounting Holes
Bolts are inserted through the mounting holes on the mitre saw base into the work table in order to secure the saw and for enhanced workplace safety.
14- Mitre Table
The mitre table is a rotating cutting table. Originally cast iron, it is now usually made of aluminum or lighter metal alloys, such as magnesium.
The clamp holds stock to be cut in place. It can be installed on the right or left of the table. Usually included with the saw, it is sometimes only offered as an accessory.
16- Slide Bar
When unlocked, the saw arm will glide forward and backward on a pair of rails the length of the slide bar, making it possible to cut various lengths. Only available on sliding mitre saws, clearance of approximately 12" is necessary at the rear of the saw. On some newer models, the rails no longer protrude at the back, reducing or eliminating the clearance requirement and making it possible to place the saw up against the wall.
17- Dust Port
A dust port allows you to connect a small dust bag so you can collect sawdust. Bags usually have a zipper for easy emptying.
18- Carrying Handle
The carrying handle makes transporting the saw between different locations a lot easier; the saw must be in the down position.
19- Lock Down Pin (not shown on the picture)
A lock down pin holds the head of the saw in the down position. This facilitates transportation, reduces risks of damage to the blade and simplifies handling.
20- Electric Brake (not shown on the picture)
The electric brake quickly stops blade rotation after the switch is released. This safety system enables the user to move quickly from one task to the next.
A sliding compound mitre saw can do all the cuts the other two saws can do, and more. It constitutes the better choice for realizing diverse projects. For tasks involving straight pieces of wood, such as mouldings, the mitre saw or combined mitre saw would both be excellent choices. More economical than the sliding saw, they are less cumbersome.
|Type of saw||Bevel and mitre options||Benefits||Uses|
With a mitre saw, you will be able to make the following cuts:
Straight Cross Cut
Mitre Cross Cut
Compound cut (mitre and bevel)
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